Wall Street Journal
A Facelift for Shakespeare
A new translation effort aims to make all of Shakespeare’s plays comprehensible to today’s audiences
By John H. McWhorter | Updated Sept. 25, 2015 3:08 pm ET
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will announce next week that it has commissioned translations of all 39 of the Bard’s plays into modern English, with the idea of having them ready to perform in three years. Yes, translations—because Shakespeare’s English is so far removed from the English of 2015 that it often interferes with our own comprehension.
Most educated people are uncomfortable admitting that Shakespeare’s language often feels more medicinal than enlightening. We have been told since childhood that Shakespeare’s words are “elevated” and that our job is to reach up to them, or that his language is “poetic,” or that it takes British actors to get his meaning across.